What makes a Durban curry dish so special and why does it differ with other Indian curries? It could be the hot red curry masala spice blend that goes into the pot.
Durban curry masala is a spice blend you will most probably only hear about in South African curry recipes. Whether it is chicken masala, mutton masala or just masala, in the context of the Durban curry, it is a very hot and spicy blend of curry powder characterized by its red color. Furthermore, it is not to be confused with garam masala, although garam masala can be used as an ingredient in curry masala.
What I have found with curry masala is that the essential ingredient is the heat from cayenne or chili powder, which is what would give it the red color. Some people use paprika, but this would mainly be in order to achieve the color as well. Secondly, it does have a touch of sweetness to the spice, achieved by incorporating cardamom, cinnamon or cloves, or a combination of all three, which is why using garam masala as one of the ingredients makes sense as it gives an aromatically sweet accent to the spice.
Many Durban curry enthusiasts mix up a homemade batch of curry masala and store in an airtight jar for use when needed.
- 6 teaspoons of mild chili powder
- 1 teaspoon really hot pepper powder like cayenne
- 1 teaspoon of ground coriander (you may also use whole)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (you may want to use whole pods, shelled)
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (or the whole stick)
- 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1. Get a suitable spice jar or container and begin to add the mild chili powder, cayenne, fenugreek, ginger, and cloves.
2. For the cardamom and coriander seeds, I love to use the whole spices and lightly toast them in a pan until aromatic. Once toasted, grind into a powder in a pestle and mortar. I do not mind if the spices are not as smooth as the ground spices you can buy in a store. The flavor the whole spices add are worth it, and the texture adds character.
3. Add the ground seeds into the spice jar. Give the jar a shake, and store on the shelf until ready to use.
Note: I love using whole cinnamon sticks so at times I will omit the ground cinnamon and instead throw a whole cinnamon stick along with the curry masala into my curry as I make it.
Do you like making your own spice blends? Try this berbere spice recipe.